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About the Superfund Redevelopment Initiative

This nationally coordinated effort provides EPA and its partners with a process to return Superfund sites to productive use. Learn more at Superfund Redevelopment Initiative.

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Redevelopment at the Site

The Commencement Bay, Nearshore/Tide Flats Superfund site is located in the City of Tacoma and the Town of Ruston, Washington. The site encompasses an active commercial seaport at the southern end of Puget Sound, with 10 to 12 square miles of shallow water, shoreline and adjacent land. The site also includes the former Asarco Tacoma Smelter, contaminated sediments offshore of the smelter, and areas of Tacoma and Ruston contaminated by smelter emissions. Most of the area is highly developed and industrialized.

Located within a tribal Usual and Accustomed fishing area, the tidal areas of the site support important recreational and tribal fisheries.

Beginning in the late 1800s, shipbuilding, oil refining, chemical manufacturing and storage, and other industrial activities occurred at the site. These activities resulted in contamination of soil, groundwater, and sediment within and/or adjacent to waterways within Commencement Bay. In 1983, EPA added the site to the Superfund program's National Priorities List (NPL).

EPA began working with the state and the Port of Tacoma to design and begin cleanup for the Sitcum Waterway portion of the bay. By using a waterway as a confined disposal site for contaminated sediments, cleanup activities resulted in newly available land on the Milwaukee Waterway. The additional space allowed an existing land-sea marine terminal facility to expand and increase the volume of its business. This expansion helped make the Port of Tacoma the seventh largest container port in the nation.

As part of the St. Paul Waterway cleanup, potentially responsible parties restored 11 acres of shallow marine habitat for ecological reuse. Cleanup activities also allowed for the construction of the colorful Chihuly Bridge of Glass public art project and the restoration of 70 acres of estuarine habitat.

In 2009, the site received about $5.2 million in American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) funds. These funds supported activities at the Ruston/North Tacoma study area, the area contaminated by the Asarco Tacoma Smelter. These resources helped complete residential, parkland and right-of-way cleanups.

In 2006, a development company purchased the property formerly occupied by the Asarco Tacoma Smelter, which consisted of 67 acres along Ruston Way on Commencement Bay. The company began construction on a project called Point Ruston. Redevelopment at Point Ruston is underway with the ultimate goal of completing over 200 residences, including single-family homes, apartments and condominiums.

In July 2014, the second phase of the Point Ruston development began with a growing demand for retail space including a sushi restaurant, seafood house and a theatre. Most Point Ruston residences will incorporate green building principles. EPA continues to work with landowners and local governments to coordinate cleanup plans that include local goals and priorities for future land use.

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Economic Activity at the Site

As of December 2018, EPA had data on 122 on-site businesses. These businesses employed 1,371 people and generated an estimated $279,470,132 in annual sales revenue. View additional information about redevelopment economics at Superfund sites.

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